DIY Edible Fingerpaint

Fall is officially upon us, which means three things:

1. Leaves are gathering on the ground.
2. I’m craving all things pumpkin.
3. We have rainy days. Lots and lots of rainy days.

Number 3 is the one I least look forward to. After the long, warm days of summer it’s a bit of a rude slap in the face to suddenly be forced back indoors against my will. But, since I can’t get rid of the rain (and probably won’t for the next 10 months or so…) I will choose to make the best of our long days indoors.

David loves doing art projects but poor little Jacob rarely gets to join in on the action. He’s still at the if-I-can-touch-it-then-I’m-putting-it-in-my-mouth stage, which works well with Cheerios and bananas but no well with glue sticks and glitter. After a brief search on Pinterest, however, I found a number of recipes for edible finger paint (have I mentioned how much I love Pinterest?). I just had to try it. The recipe is really simple: only 3 ingredients and it took about 5 minutes to make:

What You Need:

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  • 1/2 cup corn starch (corn flour)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • liquid food coloring

What You Do:

  • Pour the water and corn starch into a pan and stir constantly over low heat until the mixture begins to thicken to the consistency of Elmer’s glue (a wire whisk works best to minimize clumps)
  • Pour the mixture into cups or bowls (1 container per color you want to make)
  • Add food coloring to each container and stir
  • Let the fingerpaint cool from magma-hot to safe-to-touch before handing it to your baby

IMG_3875 I happened to have an empty plastic egg carton in my recycling bin and it seemed like the perfect receptacle for David’s paints (I didn’t want to give him all of the full cups of paint because I actually wanted to preserve some of those beautiful colors for future use. Something I’ve learned about paint and little boys: it only takes them about 3 seconds to smoosh a rainbow of colors together into one giant brown blob). The egg carton worked brilliantly. IMG_3879 For Jacob, I just scooped little bits of paint directly onto his paper. It took him less than 2 seconds to get that first bit of paint in his mouth (yay for edible paint!).  I also found that it worked better to tape his paper down with a bit of painter’s tape so he wouldn’t keep trying to eat his paper. IMG_3887 Both boys had a fine time painting and the paints actually worked really well. The color was rich and vibrant and the consistency was very smooth. Jacob lasted for about 5 minutes with his art project (not bad for a 1-year old) and I had to cut David off after a few pictures so I could complete the last, essential step of this project: a bath. IMG_3888 See, rainy days aren’t so bad after all.

Chicken Broccoli Strudel Recipe

Last week we had a great time exploring our local farmer’s market. I bought lots of yummy food at the farmer’s market, including a fresh rotisserie chicken from this guy:

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One of my favorite things about rotisserie chicken is that you can usually get multiple meals out of one chicken. For dinner after our market trip we ate the chicken straight-up with some roasted veggies and bread (also all from the farmer’s market…look how “fresh and local” I’m getting!).

After dinner there was still a good amount of meat leftover, so I knew we’d have another delicious chicken dinner coming soon. Sometimes I use the leftover rotisserie chicken to make soup or pasta dishes, but this week I decided to make one of my all-time favorite recipes. I got this recipe from my friend Elizabeth (who just happens to be a food genius) and it is ammmmmmazing! It has a few simple ingredients and takes very little effort to put together, yet it tastes like it came from a fine-dining restaurant. I’ve made this dish for guests, and they’re always asking for more. So, with no further ado, the recipe:

Chicken and Broccoli Strudel

Ingredients:

a little butter or olive oil for the tray
1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 C minced onion
1 large bunch broccoli finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 medium cloves garlic
2 cups bread crumbs
2 cups grated cheese (I usually go for cheddar)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken breasts, chopped as small as possible
1 heaping Tablespoon herbs de Provence
1 sheet of refrigerated puff pastry (or 1 frozen and thawed sheet of puff pastry)
1 egg, beaten
DIRECTIONS:
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees and oil baking tray
2) Heat olive oil or butter in skillet and sautee onions 5 minutes
3) Add broccoli, salt, pepper and garlic and cook 10 more minutes, remove from heat
4) Stir in bread crumbs, cheese, lemon juice, herbs and chicken
5) To Assemble: Roll out the puff pastry onto a clean, dry board. Use a sharp knife to cut the puff pastry into four even sections. Put 1/4 of the filling onto half a section of puff pastry, leaving about a 1/4 inch border around the bottom and sides of the puff pastry. Fold the puff pastry in half over the filling and pinch tightly to seal shut (like you’re making a hot pocket…a classy hot pocket…). Repeat with each section of puff pastry until you have four strudels. Place the strudels into the greased baking tray.
6) Brush the tops and sides of each strudel with the beaten egg.
7) Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden and crisp.
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And, as always, ENJOY!

Wedding Shortbread Cookie Recipe

This is a big week for me: Monday was my 30th birthday and today is my wedding anniversary! I am so very blessed to have spent the last 8 years married to this handsome man:

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Our wedding was a simple affair–it kind of had to be since we were broke and young and Pinterest hadn’t been invented yet. We held the ceremony and reception in a waterfront park in our college town (again, we kind of had to–we graduated 2 days before our wedding and didn’t have time to get out of town). Our family and friends did all of the grunt work and hard labor when it came time for us to walk down the aisle–and that, of course, meant that they handled the food. If you know me at all, you know that food is, shall we say, a dominant force in my life. So the food had to be good. REALLY good.

Now, good doesn’t have to mean elaborate or fussy or over the top (because our wedding was none of those things). It really just has to taste amazing. One of my favorite treats that we had at our wedding was an arrangement of shortbread cookies made by my dear friend Vickie. They are similar to sugar cookies, but a bit smoother and flakier than your traditional Christmas sugar cookie. These cookies only have 5 ingredients, and they come together in minutes–super simple. What could be better than a simple, delicious, elegant cookie? Not much, really. So, in honor of our anniversary today, I hope you enjoy this little treat from our wedding. Cheers!

Wedding Shortbread Cookies

1 pound butter
1 Cup powdered sugar
3 Cups flour
3/4 Cups corn starch
sugar for topping (plain or colored decorating sugar work equally well)

1. Stir powdered sugar, flour and corn starch together in a large bowl.
2. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the butter. Slowly add the flour mixture to the creamed butter. Keep mixing until a soft dough forms.
3. Divide the dough into 4 parts and roll each part into a ball. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
4. Take out one ball dough at a time. Flatten the dough on a lightly floured surface and use cookie cutters or an upside down cup to cut out shapes (our cookies were heart-shaped).
5. Bake cookies at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the edges of cookies turn golden.

DIY Hanging String Ball Decorations

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Last summer we moved David into his “big boy” room to make room for his new baby brother in the nursery. I wanted to make his room personalized for him without looking too cheesy (for instance, I just can’t get on board with the life-size cartoon character wall decals).

David is OBSESSED with balls, so a ball-themed room was a natural choice. I wanted to make some sort of decoration for his room–something that would look nice and be relatively easy to make since I really have very little patience for all things crafty. In the end, I decided to make these hanging string balls that I grouped together and have hanging over his dresser.

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Each ball took me about 15 minutes to make, and an easy 15 minutes at that. They are simple to put together and, since you don’t have to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it, you can zone out and listen to music or an audiobook while you’re “working”. They were also inexpensive–I bought all of the supplies to make 7 string balls for less than $20 (and I had enough string left over to make about a dozen more, if I’d been so motivated).

I actually enjoyed making these balls so much that I would like to do this project again in the future (when I have time, which is never–so it probably won’t happen, but I would still like to.). It would be fun to work with some other fun colors of string and sizes of balls so I could have the balls on hand for party decorations.

Here’s the how-to if you’d like to make your own hanging ball decor:

Supplies:

  • plastic playground ball (Target had a wide variety of sizes, from wiffle ball size to beach ball size. Choose a ball that is the same size as you want your string ball to be).
  • 1 spool cotton crochet thread in your desired color (I used one similar to this and it was plenty for 5 small balls).
  • plastic sheeting to cover your work surface
  • 1 plastic tub (large enough to submerge your spool of thread in)
  • 2 16-ounce bottles of Elmer’s glue (just the typical white glue)
  • Paper towels
  • 1 can of spray-on glue
  • clear fishing line
  • 1 needle from a sports ball pump

Instructions:

  • Cover your work surface (and the floor beneath) with plastic sheeting or some over type of covering. This can get a bit messy!
  • Dump 1 bottle of glue into the plastic tub. Add a few tablespoons of water to the glue to thin it out just a bit.
  • Put the spool of thread into the glue mixture in the tub. Roll it around until the spool is completely covered in glue. If you don’t have enough glue to completely cover your spool of thread, add more glue. You want your thread really goopy.
  • Hold your plastic ball and start wrapping the thread around it in a random criss-cross IMG_2238pattern (leave the thread in the plastic tub, and just pull it to unravel as you’re going. Make sure all of the thread is saturated with glue.). Do NOT cover about a 2-inch diameter circle around the ball’s air valve (where you would pump more air into the ball). This is where you will remove the plastic ball after the thread is dry. Really go for it, and just keep wrapping. The more thread you use, the better your ball will stay together and the awesome-er it will look when it’s all done. This gets pretty messy, so that’s why you’ve got the paper towels on hand. Wipe up the excess goopy glue that’s dripping off the thread as you’re going.
  • When you feel that your ball is sufficiently covered in thread, loop the thread through some of your criss-crosses and tie it off. Cut the thread off of the spool and set your ball upside down (on the air valve that you didn’t cover with string) to dry overnight.
  • Once the thread is completely dry, take the ball pump needle and insert it into the ball’s air valve. This will release all of the air from inside the ball. Once the ball is deflated, pull it out through the opening you left near the original ball’s air valve.
  • Loop some of the fishing line through the top part of the thread ball and tie it off to make a “hanger” for your ball.
  • Take your thread ball outside and spray it inside and out with the spray-on glue (Hold on to the fishing line so you can spray the whole ball without getting your hands all glue-y).
  • Hang the ball up by the fishing line so the spray on glue can dry completely.
  • Once all of your glue is dry, you should be ready to hang up your thread ball for decoration!

I grouped 7 balls together for my son’s room, but you could do whatever you want with the balls. If you want to make multiple balls, you can either pump up the same plastic ball to use again as the ball form, or you can just use a variety of different plastic balls. I tried beach balls as the ball form, as well, but they didn’t hold their shape as well as the playground balls.

Happy crafting!

A Clever Way To Give A Coffee Gift Card

photo (2)I was a classroom teacher for 5 years before I “retired” to begin my new career as a full-time Household Engineer (a.k.a. “Mom”). You may not be able to tell, but teachers look forward to the end of the school year even more than the students do. Much, much more. And it’s not because we teachers want to get rid of the kids, or even because we’re excited to go on fancy vacations (because, really, no teacher can afford to go on a fancy vacation even if she wants to). No, we get excited for the end of the year because we are exhausted. Teaching is a job that requires you to pour yourself out for your students each and every day– physically, mentally and emotionally. And, even though we love what we do, we need a break. A well-deserved break, I might add!

My kids aren’t in school yet, but we do go to a Bible study class every week. David has two loving teachers who spend countless hours every week preparing for his class, praying for him, and coming up with creative ways to teach a dozen energetic 2-year olds. Tomorrow is our last day of class for the year, so I wanted to get a little end-of-the-year gift for David’s teachers.

Now, here’s a little secret: teachers all want the same thing when it comes to gifts. Hint: it’s not something covered in apples, chalkboards or books. It’s not made out of crayons or tempera paint. It’s not purchased at Bath and Body Works or Yankee Candle. No, what every teacher really wants is:

A GIFT CARD!

I know, it seems kinda lame and impersonal–but it’s practical and something that she will actually use. Plus, she can use her gift card to pamper herself a bit–and for somebody who is used to taking care of everybody else first, that really is the best gift.

I decided to get David’s teachers some gift cards to Starbucks. Who doesn’t like Starbucks? And, since it is a gift, I wanted to package them creatively. I found several ideas on the internet for gift card presentation, but my favorite idea came from a website called Alphamom.com. She took a standard Starbucks cup and made a cover for the back of the cup where the barista usually checks off what type of drink you’re ordering. Instead of the usual boxes for decaf, extra shots, etc. she replaced it with the teacher’s qualities (kind, helpful, etc.) and checked them all off. Such a cute idea!

I borrowed this idea and just made my own version on my computer so I could personalize it for David’s teachers. This is a quick and easy project (each cup took about 2 minutes to make) and costs nothing more than the gift card itself.  I know that his teachers will love them! The instructions are below if you’d like to make your own Starbucks card holder:

How To Make Your Own Personalized Starbucks Gift Card Holder

Supplies:
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  • Starbucks gift card
  • “short” paper coffee cup (the size they use for a kid’s hot chocolate)
  • printable cup cover from Alphamom or make your own (I just used a standard word processing program on my computer. The boxes I created say “Loves Jesus”, “Teaches God’s Word”, “Instructs me”, “Helps me have fun!”, and “Cares for me”)
  • scissors
  • glue
  • Sharpie marker
  • tissue paper or shredded paper for filler in the cup

Instructions:

  1. Create and/or print off your cup cover. Cut it out and glue it onto the cup.
  2. Use the Sharpie marker to check off all of the “teacher quality” boxes on the back  of the cup and write your teacher’s name on the front of the cup.
  3. Fill the cup with tissue paper and tuck the gift card on top

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That’s it, easy-peasy! They turned out super cute and it’s such a clever way to present the gift card. I will also be including a card that David is coloring with the message “Thanks A Latte” on the front. Thank you to all of you amazing teachers out there!

Mother’s Day Thumbprint Flower Craft

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As you can tell by the content of this blog, I love being a mom. “Mom” is really a title of honor, and I wear it with a lot of pride. You can imagine, then, how excited I get for Mother’s Day. But it’s not just for me. I have an amazing mom, the mom who taught me how to be a mom. She has inspired me, encouraged me, prayed over me, and loved me my whole life–and now she is continuing this legacy with my children. This weekend we get to honor all of the wonderful moms out there, and that’s something to celebrate!

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I usually make cards for my mom and mother-in-law on Mother’s Day, and this year I wanted to get my boys in on the action. Since they’re so young, I wanted to do something simple that would also be somewhat personalized. I found some cute ideas for thumbprint crafts and poems online, so I just melded them all together to create this craft. I will be making mine into cards, but you could just as easily frame the artwork to make a keepsake gift. Enjoy!

Thumbprint Flower How-To:

Materials:

  • White paper
  • Green marker or crayon
  • Paint (green and at least one other color)
  • (Optional) Crayons to decorate
  1. Trim a piece of white paper to your desired size (I just cut a piece of printer paper in half so I could make two pictures per card).
  2. Use a green marker to draw a stem/stems on your paper.
  3. Paint a small circle slightly above your stemIMG_2149
  4. Put a small amount of paint on a plate. Dip one of your child’s fingertips into the paint and dab it around the painted circle to make the flower petals. You will probably be able to make 3-4 “petals” before you need to get more paint on your fingertip. You can use one color for the petals or a variety of colors. When you are done painting the flower petals, wipe off your finger (unless you like your 2-year old having red fingerpaint up his nose. Just sayin’.)
  5. Put a dot of green paint on a plate. Dip your child’s thumb into the green paint and use it to make leaves on the flower stem. Now wipe off your thumb.
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  6. After your flower has dried completely, you can decorate your picture. Older kids may enjoy drawing grass, sunshine, sky, clouds, birds, etc. to complete the artwork. I also typed up the following poem to attach to my flowers:
    A piece of me I give to you
    I used my thumb and fingers, too.
    I made you this flower so you will know
    How much I love you as I grow.
    A mother’s love and tender care
    Make happiness bloom everywhere!
  7. Sign your child’s name and the year, wrap it up all pretty-like, and watch your mom swoon!

To all the moms and grandmas out there, Happy Mother’s Day! I hope you feel honored and blessed on your special day!

BBQ-Week Menu and How To Make Your Own Pizza On The Grill

A strange phenomenon happened this week here in Seattle. Our usual gray clouds and cool temperatures were replaced with this wonderful warm shining orb in the sky: the sun. Temperatures are supposed to be in the 70’s for the next week or so, which basically means that everyone in the Pacific Northwest is freaking out. People are already calling in “sick” to work and children are gleefully jumping into the frigid Puget Sound waters. The parkas have come off and we’re ready to celebrate.

When we get these nice warm days in Seattle I like to spend as much time outside as possible. You really never know when your next chance to get Vitamin-D in a form other than “pill” will be. So, I decided to organize our entire menu this week around using our BBQ Grill–I won’t even have to go inside to cook! At the end of the post, I’ve also included a little “how-to” for making pizza on your grill. Happy BBQ’ing–at least until the rain returns next week.

Monday- Burgers
Tuesday- (no grilling tonight since we’ll be at our Bible study)
Wednesday- Grilled Chicken Kebabs
Thursday- Bratwurst, Roasted Potatoes and Garlic (done in a tin foil pouch on the grill), Grilled Asparagus
Friday- BBQ’d Pizza (instructions below)
Saturday- Honey-Citrus Marinated Pork Chops and Fire-Roasted Peppers
Sunday- Mother’s Day = my day off of cooking!

How To Make Your Own Pizza On The Grill:

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  1. Preheat half of your grill on high heat and half on low heat.
  2. Make your dough and sauce. Or cheat, and buy them. I like Trader Joe’s pizza dough–it’s only about $1.50 per dough and it tastes just as good as any dough that I’ve ever made.
  3. Roll out your dough on a flat surface until it’s your desired thickness (a lightly oiled upside down cookie sheet or a lightly floured cutting board work well).
  4. Put the dough directly on the grill grates (use the hot section for this)
  5. Use tongs to gently rotate the dough for 2-3 minutes until the bottom side is browned and the dough holds its shape.
  6. Move the dough to the cooler section of the grill and flip it over. Put sauce, cheese, and toppings on your pizza.
  7. Return your pizza to the hot side of the grill and let your pizza cook until the cheese is melted and your dough is cooked through, about 3-5 more minutes.

* We like to use a pizza stone instead of putting the dough directly on the grill. If you use a stone, just leave the stone in the grill while it is preheating and assemble your pizza directly on the stone. You do not need to flip the dough, just cook your pizza until everything is cooked through, 5-7 minutes.